"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, June 27, 2010


The next morning saw the town smothered in threatening cloud and punctuated with the rain/stop/rain/stop rythmn that seems to be the soundtrack to Galicia.

After a quick stop for coffee, we left the city and its rain and headed out West.

Finesterre (literally " The end of the earth") was named so by The Romans stationed there as they thought that was indeed the last bit of land before you fell off the edge of the world. It is a fair old drive, but the roads were good and the small towns we passed through were interesting. 

Galicia is one of the poorest states in Spain and the recipient of much EU money which all seems to be put to good use as construction was much in evidence. Bizarrely, the major retail outlets all appeared to be car dealerships. Less bizarrely, the second most common sight were parrilladas all offering varying types of grilled meats. We didn't have time to stop at any of them, to our great disappointment, and had to press on to the coast. [Ed's note: this was the nadir of the holiday for me]

There is not much to see in all honesty. A car park, a lighthouse and, er that's about it. But the coastline on the way was beautiful and the towns charming, so it was a worthwhile diversion

After a few obligatory photographs of each other looking out to see trying to be windswept and interesting but in reality looking a bit simple, we began the long drive along the Rias Baixas towards Santiago de Compostela. 

The coastline of the Rias Baixas has to be among the most extraordinary I have ever seen. Pristine beaches, small seaside towns and roads that wind up and down and around at tight angles. There was much sign of damage from the recent fires caused by the scorching Summer. But, of course, the Robin Factor came into play and it poured down our whole way to the City of Pilgrims.

After a short stop at Naia(sp?) for a ludicrously large plate of assorted cheeses and meats, we arrived at Santiago just as the heavens truly opened and let their contents flood out. 

I would like to argue that it was in some way mystical to enter the city as it was washed clean by rains from Heaven, but in truth neither Robin or I can think of any prayer that begins with the words "for fuck's sake" so I won't even try.

In fact, I have to say it ruined the whole experience for me. I had been looking forward to visiting the end of the Pilgrim's trail for years and I still plan to walk the entire length of one of its caminos before I shuffle off this mortal coil. However, in this downpour we were barely able to sprint from shelter to shelter without getting soaked and we both ended up miserable and damp and mud spattered. [Ed's note: I was relatively dry apart from a touch of trenchfoot whereas Simon insisted his little Pacamac would be up to the job with predictable consequences]

In between soakings, we did manage to enter the cathedral and I queued to place my hands on the, er, column of Maestro Mateo whose statue lies in supplication to those who enter, a moving if bedraggled moment.

A quick drink later, we retired to our hotel, the delightful San Clemente and pondered on the tricky proposition of eating without drowning. Again, The Footprint Guide came to our rescue. Recommending a local bar and a seafood restaurant a quick wade from our hotel. 

Bar El Marte was, to all intents and purposes, Santiago's equivalent of a Krispy Creme store. Not because it sold creamy comestibles, but because it was full of cops being opposite the local station. 

Robin's Rule No 15 applies "Whither Pigs Goest, Goest I" 

So we did. what a great choice. A packed bar, prompt (and pleasingly grumpy) service, plates of freebies and great raciones. 

We indulged ourselves with a pre-supper treat of Pimientos de Padron and some chipiriones and availed ourselves of the free tortilla and the pincho of jamon atop some bread and then ran the short hop to supper.

The Restaurant San Clemente came highly recommended by the guide and again with great reason. We were pretty full with fried stuff by the time we arrived and we chose to sit out in the bar area of the restaurant where locals were chowing down on tapas rather than in the formal and entirely empty restaurant area. We and one other couple of tourista were the only ones having full meals, but who cares?

A hefty starter plate of lacon with potatoes was joined by an innordinate number of rich croquettas di mariscos (seafood) and, while we ploughed our way through them, I was beginning to think we should have gone for the lighter tapa option. However, by the time our main courses arrived, I was just about ready for some loin girdage and the next hurdle. Robin had two thick slices of turbot served with some unecessary potaoes and some horribly grim looking vegetables. The turbot itself was, as all fish tends to be in Spain ,very good indeed, simply grilled.

I followed with a Zarzuela (a rich tomatoey fish stew) which came stuffed to the gunwhales with shellfish and chunks of hake, turbot and cod. A very good way to fortify against the remonstrations of God outside. Particularly when joined by a bottle of Laxas, by far the nicest of the Albarinos we tried on the trip.

Some unmemorable postre and a couple of comped nightcaps later we headed back to the hotel to dry off in more ways than one.

Don't worry there's light at the end of the tunnel (or is it a train....?)

I am led to believe that this is the Galician's equivalent of a night at The Cottesloe

That meat plate in full

Some culture

We made sure to keep up with our greens

Croquettas - what an invention, it's what seperates us from mere beasts you know

Yes the veg were really grim

Would el senor care for a small libation ?

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Blogger Gill the Painter said...

Strange place Santiago, isn't it.
I thought it would feel mystical, but not so, it reminds me of Lourdes.

It's rather uplifting though, in the Cathedral square, to witness the pilgrims arriving in their tens, probably hundreds in summer at the end of their long, long travels.

Quite inspiring really.

Monday, June 28, 2010 9:02:00 am  

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